OTUKE – Persistent reduction of Shea nuts yield is worrying Otuke farmers. Otuke, being among districts in Uganda with high Shea nuts production, has continued to produce less fruits for the last consecutive years, compared to early years; something which has left farmers who largely depend on the enterprise to panic.
If this trend is not checked, a large section of residents who depend on Shea nuts for livelihoods will be affected. These were concerns raised by the LC 3 Chairman of Alango Sub County, Atiko Christopher, during an exclusive interview with theCooperator on Monday.
“If the trend does not change, it will affect the income of locals who depend on selling Shea products for livelihood for instance Arwot-konya and Can-dag-nyeko group, all in Alango Sub County that are currently producing soap, shea butter, lotion and jellies from shea nuts,” he said.
Atiko said his area has registered persistent low production of Shea nuts for the last three years which has not only affected the livelihoods of people but also affected local revenue remittance hence compromising service delivery.
“I am not a trained environmentalist but I know the persistent reduction in the yields is due to climate change which has caused heavy rains especially at flowering stages hence destroying flowers and the buds.” he said attributing low yield to excessive use of chemicals.
A kilogram of dry shea nuts is sold at Shs 1,000, and a litre of shea nut oil goes for Shs 17,000. The shea trees bear fruit which takes four to six months to ripen. Each tree gives an average yield of 15 to 20kg of fresh fruits, with an optimum yield of 45kgs.
A kilogram of the fruit produces around 400 grammes of dry seeds. The fruit, which is green in color, has a fleshy edible pulp rich in vitamins and minerals and not lacking in protein either.
The Shea nut tree found in Acholi, Lango, West Nile and Karamoja, for many years remained a part of traditional dishes.
Increasingly, Ugandans have started seeing the shea tree as more than a source of baby oil and food.
“There is increased recognition of the shea tree as a source of income because many products have been developed such as shea butter cosmetics, lotion, bar soap, hair food and oil, lip balm, lip shine,” says an expert.
A call for Research
Leaders in Otuke district are now calling for a research on Shea trees following the report of persistent reduction of Shea nut yields.
Abola Francis, the District Chairman of Otuke, says they can’t explain why the Shea trees are producing fewer fruits for these three consecutive years; it should be scientifically proven. Abola, who is also the Secretary Production and Marketing, says there is a need for scientists to carry out research on Shea trees to find out the cause of low yields and devise solutions thereafter.
“Farmers can’t predict what exactly is happening but with the help of research, they can pinpoint why they are consistently producing good or bad yields, if the research is done, the problem of low harvests will be addressed,” he noted.
The District Natural Resource Officer of Otuke, Anyuru Thomas says the matter can only be explained by a tree specialist from the National Forestry Authority. He said he would want the Zonal Agricultural Research Development Institute to help them come up with grafted Shea tree species and also help guide the farmers on what to do with Shea trees which are getting old and cannot produce many nuts.
Farmers cry foul
Apio Veronika, a farmer and a member of Arwot-konya Cooperative Society in Alango Sub County Otuke district, like several other women wakes up early morning to collect money-spinning shea nuts every day.
The mother of three has been gathering the nuts for the last 10 years. However, with the low production she says her savings have drastically gone down.
Another farmer Okello John Bosco says those who cut down shea trees for charcoal burning are to be blamed for low shea nut production.
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